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Under the Sea-Wind marks the beginnings of one of the most significant careers in nature writing. In it Rachel Carson celebrates the mystery and beauty of birds and sea creatures in their natural habitat, conjuring the atmosphere of the shore and the open sea and the delicately balanced, fragile struggle for life along the shoreline.
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Date de parution

03 juin 2021

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0

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9781786899286

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English

Poids de l'ouvrage

2 Mo

Rachel Carson (1907–1964) was an American marine biologist. She is the New York Times bestselling author of the Sea trilogy: The Sea Around Us (winner of the National Book Award and the John Burroughs Medal), Under the Sea-Wind and The Edge of the Sea ; as well as the seminal Silent Spring . Her books have been credited with advancing the global environmental movement.
Also by Rachel Carson
The Edge of the Sea
The Sea Around Us
Silent Spring

The Canons edition published in Great Britain in 2021 by Canongate Books Ltd,
14 High Street, Edinburgh EH1 1TE
canongate.co.uk
This digital edition first published in 2021 by Canongate Books
First published in the United States of America by
Simon and Schuster 1941
Copyright © Rachel L. Carson, 1941
Copyright renewed © Roger Christie, 1969
Introduction © O.W. Toad Ltd, 2021
Illustrations by Howard Frech
Pages xvi, 65, 105, 122, 127: Courtesy of the Lear/Carson Collection, Connecticut College Pages 11, 40, 174: From the collection of
the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art, Salisbury University, Salisbury, Maryland
The right of Rachel Carson to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988
British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available on request from the British Library
ISBN 978 1 78689 927 9 eISBN 978 1 78689 928 6
To my mother
Contents
Introduction by Margaret Atwood
Foreword
Book I: Edge of the Sea
1 Flood Tide
2 Spring Flight
3 Arctic Rendezvous
4 Summer’s End
5 Winds Blowing Seaward
Book II: The Gull’s Way
6 Migrants of the Spring Sea
7 Birth of a Mackerel
8 Hunters of the Plankton
9 The Harbor
10 Seaways
11 Indian Summer of the Sea
12 Seine Haul
Book III: River and Sea
13 Journey to the Sea
14 Winter Haven
15 Return
Glossary
While the sun and the rain live, these shall be; Till a last wind’s breath upon all these blowing Roll the sea.
—Swinburne
Introduction by Margaret Atwood
T HE OCEANS ARE the living heart and lungs of our planet. They produce most of the oxygen in our atmosphere, and through their circulating currents they control climate. Without healthy oceans, we land-dwelling, air-breathing mid-sized primates will die.
The republication of Rachel Carson’s first three books—all of them about the sea—marks a new, widespread recognition of these facts. When Rachel Carson was writing these books, in the late thirties, the forties, and the fifties, a number of things that are now realities in our world had not yet happened. There were warning signs, but these warnings were only glimmers. Few were aware that we had entered the age of the Sixth Great Extinction. The nascent climate crisis had not impacted public consciousness. Large-scale industrial fishing was just beginning, and the cod stocks of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland had not yet crashed due to overfishing. Other fish populations were not being decimated due to devastating bycatch. The regenerative biosystems of the continental shelves had not yet been wrecked by draggers. The coral reefs were not yet bleaching. “Ghost nets” made of plastic rope were not drifting around in the oceans, entangling and killing fish, dolphins, and whales. No countries had set up marine protected areas, because why would you need such a thing? Wasn’t the sea an ever-renewing source of bounty, there for humankind’s taking? You didn’t need to pay attention to its ecosystems, because why would you? The sea could take care of itself. It was too big to fail.
Lord Byron said:
Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean—roll! Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain; Man marks the earth with ruin—his control Stops with the shore . . .
That may have been true in the nineteenth century, in the age of wooden sailing ships. But today, in the era of oil, plastics, pesticides, and rampant industrial overfishing, it is no longer true. If Rachel Carson were alive today she would be the first to be underlining the dangers of human ocean-killing.
Rachel Carson is a pivotal figure of the twentieth century. Those of us who care about preserving a viable planet for its many forms of life—our own species included—would not be where we are without her, and those millions currently suffering from the effects of pollution, from the climate crisis and its associated famines, fires, and floods, and resource wars, would also not be where they are if more decision-makers had listened to her and acted upon her insights.
By “pivotal,” I mean that people thought one way before her essential 1962 book, Silent Spring , and they thought another way after it. With great personal courage and with intense stamina—she was dying of cancer at the time—she took on the chemical industry, presenting the destructive effects that the widespread spraying of the popular pesticide DDT was having on natural life, especially birds. (That it was having a similar effect on farmers who’d been told it was safe, and were not even wearing protective gear while spraying it, had not yet become apparent.) Needless to say, Carson was viciously attacked by the industry in every possible way. Reading these attacks now, their misogyny is clear—she was a woman, so was therefore stupid and hysterical. One of the oddest allegations was that because she was unmarried, she must be a “communist.”
Throughout all this she stood her ground, and defended her evidence-based conclusions. As we are now living in a new era of science denial and a refusal to accept facts—not only those about climate heating and the biosphere-killing effects of new insecticides and herbicides, but about more immediately human concerns such as vaccination and vote-counting—the know-nothing, hostile reactions to her revelations should not surprise us.
Silent Spring was Carson’s fourth book. The first, Under the Sea-Wind , was published in 1941—not a propitious year for publishing anything that wasn’t about current politics, since World War Two was underway and the United States was about to actively enter it. This first book—a lyrical and charming exercise in the type of animal-centered nature writing pioneered by Ernest Thompson Seton of Wild Animals I Have Known and Henry Williamson of Tarka the Otter and Salar the Salmon — would probably today be marketed as Young Adult or Children’s literature, though Carson’s intended audience was broader. She aimed to raise awareness about the interconnectedness of life though following the life stories of three individual organisms: a sanderling, a mackerel, and an eel.
Stories people tell about other life forms or objects are inevitably anthropomorphic—even “The Life of a Pencil” and Hans Christian Andersen’s tale about a Christmas tree are like that—so it’s no use dissing Carson in that respect. Once you embark on plots concerning individuals with points of view, humanizing them will be the result, whether you dress your animal characters up in frocks and sailor hats, like Beatrice Potter, or let them swim naked, like Carson’s eel. On the plus side, this technique helps readers empathize with other life forms. On the minus side, eels don’t really have human names, nor do otters or wolves, so some Easter Bunnying is inevitably going on. But the delight in the sea’s many mysteries and gifts are well worth the read, though such a story written today would have to include the many man-made perils the organisms would now face: habitat destruction, pollution, the threat of extinction. Anguilla the eel would doubtless have to struggle with a plastic bag, and Silverbar the sanderling’s migration would be more like that of the last of the curlews, in Fred Bodsworth’s tragic novel of that name.
Carson’s next book, The Sea Around Us , was published in 1951—the year after postwar austerity seemed finally over—and was a huge success. It’s not a fictionalized account, but a factual one, combining history and pre-history and geology and biology in a secular and celebratory hymn to the ocean. Many were eager to follow its author beneath the waves, into the ultramarine depths. Remember Captain Nemo, of Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea ? Maybe you don’t, but in 1951, many readers did. Under the sea was a realm of adventure and wonder, and how thrilling it was to be taken on a tour by such a well-informed and enthusiastic guide! No mermaids, but on the other hand, marvels even greater. It was this book that put Rachel Carson on the national and international map.
The Edge of the Sea , the third in Carson’s sea trilogy, came in 1955. This is the book with which I identified most closely then, when I was fifteen. It’s about beachcombing, something I myself had done a lot of along the coast of the Bay of Fundy during visits to my Nova Scotian relatives during postwar summers of the late forties and early fifties. The tide pools and caves and flora and starfish and gastropods of that shore were the same as those across the Bay, so the first third of The Edge of the Sea was speaking about creatures I myself had seen. I still can’t pass a rock pool at low tide without looking to see what might possibly be in there.
In all three of these books there is one underlying refrain: Look. See. Observe. Learn. Wonder. Question. Conclude. Rachel Carson taught people to look at the sea, and to think about the sea, in fresh ways. She brought the same habits of mind to the observations of bird life—to the dwindling bird life she was noticing—that led to Silent Spring . Without her work on the oceans, she would not have developed the tools that enabled her investigation of the effects of pesticides. And without the fame and the platform that her sea trilogy had brought her, no one would have listened to her alarming message, once she had delivered it. And if no one had listened to it, there would no longer be any eagles, or peregrines, or— eventually—woodland warblers.
Rachel Carson is one of the major

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